Spotlight on Edinburgh pandas as Tokyo pair mate

THE pressure is on for Edinburgh Zoo’s most famous ­attractions following reports that a fellow pair of giant pandas in Japan have mated.

Giant male panda Ri Ri and his female companion Shin Shin mated on their first evening together, and again the next morning at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo.

Edinburgh’s Yang Guang and Tian Tian have recently been spending time in each other’s enclosures as the solitary animals prefer to live apart when not breeding.

Given giant pandas’ poor breeding record, the zoo’s workers have been rigorously preparing the animals for Tian Tian’s fleeting 36-hour window of ­fertility.

Experts believe Tian Tian will be ready to mate by the end of March, and the pair may be ready to be introduced some time around the Easter weekend.

Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, said the keepers’ efforts follow the best practice methodology adopted by other panda-keeping zoos around the world, and give the giant pandas the best possible chance of success.

He added: “That’s great news that the Toyko Zoo pandas have mated and hopefully the end result will be cubs, helping the overall global breeding effort to save giant pandas.

“We’re looking forward to when Tian Tian comes into season now later this month, and are in regular communication with our zoo colleagues who are managing giant pandas around the world.

“We know that Memphis, Washington and Atlanta, are, like us gearing up for potential breeding of pandas.”

Despite Yang Guang’s best efforts, Tian Tian did not fall pregnant during last year’s breeding season.

Pandas, whose natural habitat lies in mountainous south-west China, have a low reproductive rate and are under pressure from factors such as habitat loss. China has about 1,600 pandas living in the wild.